Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Handling Fear
By: Lindsey Coates Horvatich
Fear is, arguably, the strongest thing in the air right now. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between fear and anxiety, because they feel very similar. Fear is an emotion that stems from a neurological and biological response to threat or danger. Anxiety occurs when that threat or danger is perceived, as opposed…
Fear is, arguably, the strongest thing in the air right now. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between fear and anxiety, because they feel very similar. Fear is an emotion that stems from a neurological and biological response to threat or danger. Anxiety occurs when that threat or danger is perceived, as opposed to occurring in real time. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, you are probably experiencing some level of anxiety given our current reality.
We want you to know that is ok. The unknown always has the potential to increase our sense of fear, but the unknown mixed with circumstances that are out of our sphere of control tends to increase anxiety in even the most laid back person.
Below are a few guidelines for caring for yourself and those around you as we experience heightened levels of fear and anxiety in the coming days and weeks. Our feelings are always valid, but they do not always represent truth. Hopefully, these suggestions will help create a sense of stability in the midst of potential chaos.
While it is important to be aware of the most up-to-date facts, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the frenzy of false information that is also circling right now. Unfortunately, there are people who want to take advantage of our fear and anxiety during this time. Be sure to get your information from a trustworthy source, like the Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov or your primary care provider, and be aware of scams designed to take advantage of time, mental health, and finances. While social media can be a helpful tool, it can also be used to spread unreliable information. Check your sources, and ask professionals for their opinion if you are unsure of a source’s reliability.
As the CDC encourages social distancing, many people will find themselves cut off or distanced from daily routines and needs like jobs, childcare, school, meals, reliable transportation, health care, and community engagement. Be kind in your interactions with others. Each of us is learning to navigate a new normal, and in doing so, kindness goes much further than demanding a certain outcome or response. Even though each of our circumstances may be different, we are all in the same boat here. While staying home may not be convenient or enjoyable, it may be the kindest thing you can do not only to protect yourself from illness, but to protect others as well. This also includes being kind to yourself and paying attention to your own needs!
Practice Self Care
Self care isn’t just bubble baths and spa treatments. While those things are nice, most of us practice self care but just being attentive to our own needs, and doing what is necessary to nurture our own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Over the next few weeks, self care may look like writing up a daily routine for you and your kids as you navigate life at home. It may look like going for walks when you feel cooped up. Self care may look like reassessing the family budget to account for reduced work hours or preparing healthy meals ahead of time for when you don’t feel like cooking. When you and I are diligent in caring for ourselves, we are better prepared to care for others when the time comes.
Prepare Without Panic
Floridians are well practiced in preparing for the unknown. We have to do it every year when hurricane season rolls around. We can prepare for the possibility of home quarantine without giving into panic. The CDC and state health departments are currently asking that families and individuals have about two weeks, or 14 days, of home necessities on hand. This includes food, medications, baby and childcare items, and cleaning supplies. The COVID19 virus is airborne, so access to water will remain the same. If you are short on things like paper products or soap, grab what you need for your home for two weeks, but be sure to leave some for the next person who is also in need of the same items. Keep medications refilled in a timely manner so that you don’t run out. Make a list to keep track of necessary quantities so that you may plan accordingly.
Ask For Help
Please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. So many of us rely on in-person community for our health and wellbeing. Charis Counseling Center offers video therapy sessions at no additional expense. Many organizations are now offering online support and recovery groups so that people’s mental health is not disrupted during this time. Utilize web based tools like FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Marco Polo to connect with friends and family. Plan a movie night where people can watch the same movie at the same time, while on video chat, to stay connected and entertained at the same time. If you are not sure where to look for resources, contact one of our therapists. We would be happy to help point you in the right direction.
Grounding is the practice of reminding your brain and body what is real in the moment. If you feel as though you are becoming anxious, stressed or afraid try the following exercise to ground yourself in the moment and recalibrate your emotions:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
- Take in one deep breath, counting to five slowly.
- Hold the breath for just a moment, then let it out slowly as you count to five again.
- Continue deep breaths, and pay attention to your body.
- Do you feel your feet on the floor? Your legs on the chair? Your hands on your lap? Do you feel pain or tension anywhere in your body?
- As you continue to breathe, ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?”
The answer may surprise you. Deep breathing not only brings a sense of calm, but it helps to reduce the stress hormone Cortisol while increasing blood flow to the brain. This helps us restore a sense of mental balance, and leads to wiser decision making as opposed to impulsivity or panic.
I recently caught up with friends who live in mainland China and are coming to the tail end of their time in quarantine. They told me that they are doing well, that they are making the best of the time they have at home, and that they are learning to navigate a new normal with the resources they have. My hope is that we are able to do the same here, and be kind to each other in the process.